Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Communist Workers Party

Payback: “The Communist Workers Party Stormed the Democratic Convention”

First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 5, No. 31, August 25-31, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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NEW YORK CITY – 1980: The year the U.S. ruling class’ criminal, sacred Democratic invention was crashed open inside and out in a conscious, methodical way by the Communist Workers Party. Deep inside the very guts of the paper tiger, the U.S. people are beginning to speak with one voice, “You cannot escape the wrath of the American people,–it’s payback time.”

Thursday, August 14, 9 p.m.: Among the crowds on the streets all over mid-town Manhattan we walked, breaking off in twos or threes to converge quickly at one point. In a few short minutes hundreds formed a tight brigade, running in formation. Rounding the corner off 34th Street, we moved onto 8th Avenue, stopping traffic and sending the pigs scrambling. The Secret Service jammed their walkie-talkies: “The CWP is coming, with helmets and clubs.” But it was too late, we had taken them by surprise.

Brilliant in the glare of Madison Square Garden, the site of the 1980 Democratic Convention, lit up brighter than Yankee Stadium, the demonstrators stood for three long minutes, raising fists, banners, and ringed by helmeted defense teams with sticks. Passersby stood riveted and the air snapped as the chant grew: “Greensboro, Miami, Payback Time!” “WHAT IS THIS?” people were stunned. “This is something. They are ready. Their people got killed before and they are ORGANIZED.”

The pigs swarmed to lock the Garden doors, clambering for their own helmets. Convention television coverage was interrupted to show this demonstration, a march like no other mere protest. Our troops about-faced and stepped out to depart. Some pigs went mad, broke ranks and charged, clubbing demonstrators including women and children. They drew .45 caliber revolvers, chasing people for blocks. A news photographer was beaten up, and a woman bystander kept screaming, “fascist pigs, fascist pigs.” But the pigs were outmaneuvered as the demonstrators organized to fight back. “Some of the demonstrators struck policemen so hard that their riot helmets cracked,” described a New York Times article. One cop from the 114 Precinct was quoted by the New York Post as saying, “They were very well organized. Every time we tried to grab them they splintered and reformed somewhere else. It was a very dangerous situation.” “I didn’t make a single arrest. Every time I tried to collar someone, 3 or 4 came up behind to hit me over the head,” complained a cop at the hospital later.

After several minutes 26 pigs were downed, injured. Seventeen demonstrators were arrested, the rest dispersed into the night, prepared for another battle. As we kept on going, half of the police from the Midtown South precinct were paralyzed, and we pursued our victory. Some of our actions lasted late into the early morning hours of the next day. The whipped cops, the capitalists’ first-line enforcers, one who was seen to be bawling as he stood face-to-face with the militant demonstration, tried to get even. They arrested comrades, all who were seen to be standing and almost unmarked as they entered paddy wagons. After several hours inside Midtown South precinct, the comrades were sent to hospitals with head injuries and. some broken bones. What the sick pigs couldn’t do on the streets, they had tried to do behind closed doors, beating comrades with blackjacks and clubs, putting guns to their heads trying to get them to sing “God Bless America.” But even inside their own fortress they were defeated.

When the pigs, in a frenzied exhibition of the lowest form of cowardice, tortured our arrested comrades with chairs and clubs–yet another trait of the CWP shined. “The more they hit us the more tired they got. The more they hit us the more scared they got, because they couldn’t comprehend our strength, why we wouldn’t break. There was not a whimper, not a cry from us. They couldn’t escape the payback,” said one arrested comrade.

We Didn’t Just Take On The Politicians, We Slapped Them In The Face

While the CWP demonstration was electrifying the atmosphere outside, the CWP served notice inside the Garden, haunting Carter’s acceptance speech. As the speech began, Signe Waller, widow of Jim Waller, one of the murdered CWP 5, was standing within 50 feet of Carter. As a string of firecrackers went off, exploding his lies, she called out the truth, “Long Live the Communist Workers Party.” So unnerved was Carter he muffed his climactic line, “honoring the great man who should have been president, Hubert Horatio Homblower!!!.., erh... Humphrey!” Minutes later, Dale Sampson, widow of Bill Sampson of the CWP 5, stood on a news desk and raised high her husband’s portrait, shouting, “Avenge the Murders of the Communist Workers Party 5!” As a Secret Service agent pulled her down, she fell on top of him, then walked off to hold a six-minute press conference right in the Garden. Then she moved out untouched into the street.

This was not the only time the Secret Service security was left scratching their heads, blaming each other for the busted up defenses. Politicians and delegates gazed dumbfounded as elevator doors in their hotels opened, revealing the spray-painted message: “Carter, Reagan, Kennedy – Corruption, Murder, Crisis.” Our supporters penetrated the Garden arena at will. Using the highest security-clearance passes obtained by our supporters in high places, we breezed past the security. On Wednesday, a CWP supporter put the politicians on notice just before Ronald Dellums spoke, unfurling a banner at the top of the podium inside the convention hall. So disorganized was the Secret Service she spoke uninterrupted for two and a half minutes. Motioning to the crowd, she declared, “All of you people here–this is a charade and you’re voting in World War III and fascism.”

This same CWP supporter shook the politicians again the very next day. Carter’s entrance to a fundraiser at the Plaza Hotel on Thursday afternoon was already delayed two hours by CWP actions. Then, after a ten-minute appearance inside, this comrade called him out as he rushed through the hotel. Another CWP supporter stood a foot away from Carter outside, and wiped the phoney smile off his face, spitting, “Jimmy Carter, you killed the CWP 5. It’s Payback Time for Greensboro.”

National Security Advisor Brzezinski couldn’t even go to the bathroom at the Convention without getting called out by the CWP. As he walked by, surrounded by seven Secret Servicemen, a CWP supporter called, “Brzezinski, hey Brzezinski.” Turning around for what he thought would be a handshake, instead a finger, “You suck!” shot into his face.

Since they couldn’t stop people from protesting, the capitalists had used one of their most sophisticated tricks – American pluralism, allowing a coexistence of different, isolated voices so that each canceled the other out, so that the American people could not speak with one, clear voice. We were able to rise above this capitalist trick.

Rufus Edmisten, North Carolina Attorney General and vice chairman of the Security Committee for the National Democratic Convention, was quoted in a Greensboro Record article, “We are assisting the demonstrators every way we can, by making sure TV is there, that they have all the room they want, and that the streets are properly blocked off to accommodate them.” Someone asks what the CWP is up to, and his grin becomes a frown, “Nothing so far, but we are more worried about them than any other group.”

The capitalist parties, the Democratic and Republicans, come to life only around election time. Between elections they don’t exist, held together by social ties and political patronage. But the CWP is here to stay, 365 days a year, every year. We will continue to reach out to the American people and continue to set the pace for class struggle in the workplace, communities and schools. We’ve served notice–eviction day will come. If our five murdered comrades, Jim Waller, Cesar Cauce, Mike Nathan, Bill Sampson and Sandy Smith were alive, they surely would be proud of us.